Exploring Ship Island: Top Things to Do

Camille Reddick
September 15, 2023

Ship Island is a slice of heaven located 11 miles off of Mississippi's coast. This barrier island is one of the last undeveloped islands in America. In fact, the island is so "raw" that it's only accessible by boat. Visitors can take the ferry from Gulfport Harbor. The history of the island is almost as intriguing as its natural beauty! While the island was acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1810, Spanish, British, French, Confederate, and Union flags have all been flown here.

You'll feel the adventure starting in your bones when you catch glimpses of dolphins arching above the waves during the ferry ride to Ship Island. Shelling, birding, and exploration are in your future if you plan a voyage! Start planning your adventure with help from this list of six things to do on Ship Island MS.

1. Splash in the Gulf of Mexico

Ship Island Excursion

Ship Island is beloved for its clear blue water lined by white-sand beaches! After stepping off the ferry, visitors can follow the boardwalk for roughly half a mile to reach the beach. Lifeguards are typically on duty during the summer months. Swimmers can make the most of the beach by sunbathing or looking for shells after drying off.

2. Explore Fort Massachusetts

Fort Massachusetts

Dating back to 1868, Fort Massachusetts was constructed to protect Mississippi's shore from invaders under the guidance of President Polk. Confederate soldiers took over the fort during the Civil War until Union forces seized it. In 1862, thousands of troops moved in to use the fort as a pivotal staging area for the successful capture of New Orleans. One fascinating fact about the fort is that it was constructed using bricks sourced everywhere from New England to Florida! Visitors today can admire the distinct color differences in different patches of the fort.

3. Grab a Snack at the Island's Only Food Spot

While Ship Island isn't built up the way that most islands and coastal towns are today, visitors can still grab a bite to eat! Ship Island has a snack bar where you can purchase some vittles. However, it is recommended that you at least pack your own water bottle to ensure that you can stay hydrated while touring the island by foot!

4. Go Snorkeling


Many visitors come to Ship Island for high-quality Mississippi snorkeling! Some common critters you're likely to see in the water here include blue crabs, redfish, hermit crabs, damsels, and stingrays. Obey all local guidelines regarding everything from tide levels to sharks before getting in the water!

5. Have a Picnic

Dining with your toes in the soft sand is one of the best things to do on Ship Island MS! Guests are invited to pack lunches to enjoy on the beach. You can even rent chairs and umbrellas while on the island if you prefer to dine in the shade. The only rule is that you must carry out every single item that you bring in.

6. Get Your National Parks Passport Stamped

Did you know that Ship Island is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore? That means you'll be enjoying a portion of the nation's longest seashore within the entire National Park System. Don't miss the chance to get stamped during this adventure!

Plan Your Getaway to Ship Island

There's no driving on Ship Island. The only way to get there if you don't have your own boat is to take the lovely ferry ride from Gulfport. While you're in the area, be sure to check out this list of fun and unusual things to do near Gulfport, MS.

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